With the season still over two months away, it's anyone's best guess as to how the chips will fall after a busy offseason. But at least one of those best guesses has the Red Sox looking awfully good, as Buster Olney has ranked them (Insider only) as the third best team in Major League Baseball.
At third, the Red Sox trail only the Cubs, who had one of the most productive offseasons in baseball after recording 97 wins in 2015, and the Royals, who apparently did something pretty good in October. Not bad company to be in. That of course also puts them ahead of every A.L. East team, with the Blue Jays their only competition to even make the top-10. The Yankees rank among the "best of the rest," while the Orioles and Rays trail further behind.
It's noteworthy that Olney's bullish take on the Red Sox comes in spite of some of their more obvious flaws. He hasn't somehow missed the fact that this is a team with some question marks that could go quite wrong:
...they have a lot to sort through and questions that need to be answered, particularly surrounding players theoretically in the middle of their batting order. Can Hanley Ramirez can be a first baseman? Will Pablo Sandoval produce? How much can the team expect from aging stars such as David Ortiz?
John Farrell more important than ever before
The 2016 Red Sox have a lot of moving pieces and uncertain quantities. How John Farrell manages to piece them all together could make a big difference in how far the team gets.
These are the sort of questions Red Sox fans ask themselves pretty much every time they think of the season to come at this point. It's easy to get too wrapped up in them, however, and nice to get some positive outside reinforcement that this team is actually good even taking those question marks into consideration, not just if they pay off.
And part of that is because of something else Olney brings up: Boston's ability to make trades. Yes, they've got question marks. Yes, some of those will fail. No, the Red Sox aren't necessarily stuck running out those failures every game. Dave Dombrowski managed to navigate this offseason while making Manuel Margot the farm system's greatest loss. That leaves the Red Sox with more routes to success than just getting lucky with their uncertain commodities. With David Price and last year's young stars leading the way, the Sox should be right in the thick of things come July even if not everything breaks their way. And if they're able to just keep pace with the contenders that long, they've got the resources to pull away late.
All of this will mean very little in just a few months' time, of course. But for now, in these cold winter months, a little positivity goes a long way towards keeping one's sanity. 30 days until pitchers and catchers.